Writing is an exercise in power, five women writers sitting on the panel titled "Fiction: Resistance or Refuge?," at Dhaka Lit Fest, concurred while trying to define the term "women writer" and what "fiction means to them."
"Having developed an awareness that telling stories are political, writing fiction is a huge responsibility," said Monica Ali, a British-Bangladeshi award-winning writer. She was responding to a question on what fiction means to her.
Whereas, Maria Filomena Bouissou Lepecki, a Brazilian author believes that writing fiction throws open the possibility to live many lives.
Reality reflects through fiction. Therefore, writers are allowed to live different identities while writing. Hence, writing fiction is a means of travelling to different parts of the world, she observed.
"Fiction is a space. And in that space, all are allowed to lie – not for the sake of lie though. Hence, we can look through generations, through space," says British-Brazilian novelist Yara Rodrigues Fowler, who is responsible for Stubborn Archivist. Fiction to her is also a process of healing, joy and safety.
While few believe that writers need to be unhappy to produce good fictions, Yara says that she cannot write in such a state. As far as she is concerned, happiness is very important to pen a fiction.
Minna Lindgren, an award-winning journalist and author from Finland is famous for her fearless approach with the whimsical writing style, writes about old people. Reflecting on why she wrote about old people, she states that old people are marginalised from the family and thereby from the society.
Writing about them is a means for her to protest against the patterns of behaviour which push them to the margin.
While Ali says she does not choose her themes consciously, she begins to portray her characters as they automatically unfold to her. She writes because she likes to put herself in someone's shoes. Whereas, Yara chooses them meticulously. And Minna is very well aware of her characters – how they take their respective forms. What is more important to her is how characters in her novels paly out their roles in relationship with one another.
Alongside old people, she chooses to write about children. The old-child binary gives her joy. Maria prefers to cast her stories around marginalised war victims and slaves.
These writers feel that it is time to trash that overused and puzzling category – woman writer. May be it is time for men to acknowledge the fact that women writers have long been working from within the mainstream to have earned this emancipation from fixity of a trite category.
Women writers as women writer is extremely political, they opined and added that gender and racial identities must be put aside to come to grips with the essence of things. There shall not be any categorisations precluding the creative achievement of each woman artists.
Though Yara has her own argument for a new set of categories – she thinks pragmatic categorisation is necessary, since she does not think herself as a women writer, rather just a writer.